Tag Archives: Northern California

List of Rural Counties in California

Rural California
forests, mountains, rivers, canyons, orchards, farms, wilderness 

The states with the largest amount of land classified as rural are:
1. Alaska, 2. Texas, 3. California, 4. Montana

The state of California has the highest population in the nation, but residents are highly concentrated and unevenly distributed.

California’s population has declined for the first time in its history.  Population increased from 1800 up until 2017, but most recently has seen a decline, referred to as ‘CalExodus’

NOTE: Half the population resides in just 4 counties:
Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino

chickens

58 counties in California

In California the majority of the population live in urban (city) areas, while just a small percentage live in rural areas. California’s rural population is not highly concentrated, but distributed throughout many of the 58 counties.

Rural Relocation inside of California

bycounty

Rural Northern California

California counties defined as rural:

California counties considered mostly rural:

horseback

The California counties listed below may have growing populations, yet most still have available land for small farms, orchards and livestock. Home prices will be higher in areas in close proximity to cities. When planning to relocate outside of a city, abundant water should be a top priority. Wells can dry up during drought years, so check this 2015 map for prior affected regions.

More California  Counties w/ Rural Residential Areas:

centralfarmland

checkRural areas can still be found in Southern California, in places like East County San Diego and maybe Riverside County, but the cost of real estate is high in many parts of the state and generally unaffordable.

Anything near the coast is way more expensive than sunny, hot inland locations, with desert lands being the least expensive. Food grows well in sunshine and heat, just make sure you have lots of water. Be prepared to build shade structures.

Total Escape is here to show you the rest of the state.

rural california

purples are rural
oranges semi-rural

RELOCATING TO RURAL COUNTRY

Many older homes may be in dire need of complete renovation, so be ready to work, or hire out to have it done. Moldy foundations, collapsing basements, leaky roofs, retaining walls. Home inspection should be learned (in advance) of home ownership.

Rural ranches and mountain homes may be located on dirt roads. Snow and rain make unpaved access messy or impossible, so vehicle choice (4×4) could be an issue when relocating to wilder lands.

Larger properties could be totally undeveloped. Land excavation is quite expensive, so you might need to consider buying your own earth moving machine.

Looking for a rural property with a well and/or a creek will ensure a good water source for years to come, but only if you maintain the system. Upgrades may be needed and water filters are always a reoccurring cost. Water testing is recommended for your home. Well tests are usually offered by local well companies. To drill a new well on raw land, expect to pay thousands of dollars. Especially if no road or drive way exists.

CA population density 2020

 

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WILD FIRES in California 

wildfire aftermath
Aftermath of Wildfire 2020

Wildfire is a common threat in rural areas, due to the amount of vegetation and the remote location. Preparation (years in advance), can go a long way to saving your structures from catching fire.

Harden your home to stand alone, without any expectations of firefighters coming to fight the fire or save your house.

Be physically fit, disciplined and capable of ‘brush clearance’ on your own land, every year. What used to be a 30 foot perimeter clearance around structures, has turned into a 100 foot requirement.

But with recent erratic fire seasons, more aggressive and  lasting longer – authorities are now considering a 300 foot clearance mandatory, allowing for tree removal well into neighboring properties.

Be prepared to pay for tree removal and brush clearance, if you cannot do it yourself. Your life and property LITERALLY rely on proper brush clearance around your home.

TREE REMOVAL + BRUSH CLEARING

Since many wildland fires are spread with the dramatic wind events, originating from the east, special consideration should be paid to the east side of buildings.

Geography plays a big part on this. Sometimes winds come from the northeast. Know the unique landscape, hazard potentials and the pattern of weather for the region you reside in.

California Population Growth Rate by County
California Population Growth Rate by County

 

snow

WEATHER

California has it’s own share of weather related crises’ – from seasonal flooding to landslides, rock slides to avalanches, heatwaves to snow storms, winds events (up to 70 mph) and of course, dry lightning strikes with abundant wild land fires.

Too cold, too hot, too much snow. Research historical weather records for any place you plan to live, and expect those normals to change (maybe drastically) with future predictions.

Over the decades, Total Escape has found the NWS, which is the National Weather Service, forecasts to be more accurate than most of the other weather related web sites. Be ready for any type of weather, from serious downpours to droughts.

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ELEVATION

California has extreme elevation, with below-sea-level desert basins to the tallest granite, mountain peaks. It is much easier to grow food crops at lower elevations in California, than in the mountains or foothills. Livestock and apple & citrus orchards prefer the sunny mountain foothills, while rice and grains will typically grow only in the low lands. Know what terrain is best for the type of farm or homestead you want to create. Snow is possible, but not very common, down to 1000′ elevation. Snow depth can be an issue for any type of year-round growing above 4000′ elevation.

DOWN THE HILL

Shopping and groceries could be many miles away, so you’ll need to see how far you are willing to drive (and how often) for food staples. Hardware stores, big box stores and most conveniences of city life are now hours away.

rural_living

As Americans, our ancestors come from the natives, the rebels, the adventurers – and the dreamers, many of who migrated westward to create a better life. 

snow

Now is a time that we could re-create ourselves, as a nation – and individually.

During the Great Depression of 1930’s – nearly half the US population worked in agriculture – and most households had a backyard vegetable garden. That lifestyle continued through the 1950’s, but then commercialism and pesticides took over our food; and we became less interested in food production over the decades.

grow a food garden

DISTRACTED

Today, farm workers have decreased to less than 10% of our population. Now we rely on corporations to feed us. If you yearn for a new life – outdoors, out in the country, with less city, less noise and more nature – this site can help you find a new rural location to explore, even in Crowded California.

ruralhuasna

Total Escape has been focusing on rural California since 1996

AtoZsmalltowns

California towns & cities by Elevation

California towns listed by Population

California towns & cities by Zip Code

California Regional Map

 

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recreate

ideas

forestmaps

 

dogJess Valley

canoe

colusalevee

growingonions

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Smith River California

Wild & Scenic Smith River
Smith River NRA

Northern California, Del Norte County

South Fork Smith River4

Wild Smith River

Smith River National Recreation Area

One of the least known rivers in the Golden State, the Smith is designated as a Wild and Scenic River. This could be one of the wildest and cleanest rivers in the world.

Located in the Pacific Northwest, this area typically sees the most rainfall of any California region. Smith waters flow from the Klamath mountains of Oregon, to cross into California  with state line near O’Brien.

Smith is the only major, un-dammed river inside California and it contains the most original, ancient forest ecosystem than any other waterway in the state.

colorful blue-green

Smith River water often appears emerald green or on clear, sunny days, a turquoise blue color. This is because of the rare green serpentine rocks below that cast their brilliant color.

The Wild & Scenic Smith River

hiker

River Classification & Mileage:

Wild — 78.0 miles
Scenic — 31.0 miles
Recreational — 216.4 miles
Total — 325.4 miles

Beginning up in Oregon….

The Smith River, its three major forks and dozens of side creeks drain a beautiful, rugged terrain of the Pacific Northwest, flowing southwest from the Klamath Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Nearing the coast, the river makes an abrupt turn north to meet the sea.

The NRA encompasses more than 450-square-miles of densely forested mountains, pristine botanical areas, remote wilderness landscapes, high-mountain lakes and steep, rocky canyons. The river is an important stream for fish, with towering trees along its banks provide shaded conditions necessary for cold-water species.

CALIF RIVER FISHING – chinook and coho salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout. Obtain a California fishing license. CA DFW

fish

WEATHER

A couple of campgrounds in this area are open year round, but the others close down for winter. Rainy season normally runs from October through April with an average annual rainfall over 90 inches. Summers are dry and warm, with high temperatures between 80-100°F. Contact the NRA Headquarters at the Gasquet Ranger Station for current weather forecast/conditions.

  • backpacking

  • camping

  • cliff jumping

  • fishing

  • hiking

  • kayaking

  • mountain biking

  • paddle boarding

  • redwood forests

  • river rafting

  • snorkeling

  • swimming holes

  • tubing

  • wildlife

  • wildflowers

In 1990, the portions of the Smith River on the Six Rivers National Forest were re-designated to create the Smith River National Recreation Area. More than 300 miles of the Smith River drainage are designated wild and scenic, making it one of the most complete river systems in the nation. The emerald-green Smith River flows freely and naturally, without a single dam for its entire length (and the only major river in California to hold this status).

canoe

RAPIDS & FLOATS

Winter rains provide the whitewater conditions so avidly sought by kayakers. The Smith River abounds with Class IV and V rapids on all three forks and has many miles of steep creeking waters. Its miles of whitewater require a fairly high degree of technical skills by the boater.

Just past the confluence of the Middle Fork and South Fork, the river leaves the NRA and flows past giant redwoods. Great summer floating in Class I and II waters through here.

Once the three forks join to form the mainstem, the land levels out, and the last 16 miles to the ocean present less demanding conditions, Class I-II in medium flows.

Smith River Sunset

camptruck

ROADWAYS

California Coastal Redwoods to Oregon

Smith River Scenic Byway
U.S. Highway 199

33 miles long
Northwest California

 

PDF Smith River Map & Guide

6.5  MB download
20 page river PDF guide w/ trailheads mileage and information, navigable runs detailed, campgrounds, picnic sites, fire lookout tower, plus cabin rental

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FOREST & PARKS
along the Smith River

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Camping Smith River, California
Campgrounds along the Smith River

Campground Camping at Smith River National Recreation Area
RV Camping, Dispersed Camping, Lookouts & Cabin Rentals

Smith River

bycounty

More Information

Forks of the Smith River? 45 stream branches and 3 major forks, this huge watershed drains a lot of forest terrain.

USDA Smith River page

Smith River NRA Visitor Center
10600 US Highway 199
Gasquet, CA 95543
707-457-3131

Siskiyou Land Conservancy
siskiyouland.org

Smith River Alliance
smithriveralliance.org

Smith River Swimming Holes
arboursabroad.com/smith-river-swimming-holes

 

towns near the Smith River:

SmithRiverMap
Outta Print Map (1994)

OTHER SMITH RIVERS

By the way, there are other well known fishing destinations called Smith River – Montana & Missouri. Maybe more. Go find ’em.

Trinity River California

Trinity River of Northern California

Highway 96
Trinity River flows north at Highway 96, to meet the Klamath River; N of Willow Creek, CA

south – west – north
& finally into the Klamath River

Northern California’s top river destination, the path of the Trinity River is not a typical westward flow. Headwaters begin in the Scott Mountains and the Trinity Alps, making its way into the Trinity Reservoir, then southbound to the Lewiston Reservoir, passing Douglas City and heads westward to parallel Hwy 299, beyond Weaverville. Trinity waters hugs the paved westbound highway – all the way from Junction City to Willow Creek – then turns abruptly north to merge with the Klamath River along Hwy 96.

Forests & Parks along Trinity River:

fish   boatramp  canoe

boating
camping
canoeing
fishing
hiking
hunting
kayaking
off-roading
rafting

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2021 wildfire: Monument Fire burnt parts of the mountains and forests around Trinity River, in between Junction City and Willow Creek.

dispersed camping off Hwy 299
behind Douglas City

steinerflatfree
Steiner Flat is free camping, near Douglas City, CA and Hwy 299
Steiner Flat Camp
Tent camping at Steiner Flat – dispersed camping

Campgrounds along Hwy 3 Trinity River:

( both located @ Coffee Creek )

douglas beach
Douglas City Campground – nice beach

Campgrounds along Hwy 299 Trinity River:

trinity299
Trinity River wide and shallow area at Junction City, CA

ranger  

The largest town  near the Trinity River, is the county seat of Trinity, Weaverville, CA. The historic mining camp and logging town, located at the junction of Hwy 299 and Hwy 3. Oddly, the town itself does not have direct access to the Trinity River, but it is well worth a visit anyway.

greatparks
Great little picnic parks inside Weaverville

Towns near or along the Trinity River:

 lodge

Trinity Lake
Trinity Lake – red dirt shoreline in Northern California
trinityriverrush
Trinity River – North of Trinity Lake, along Highway 3

Feather River California

riverfromtrail
Middle Fork of the Feather River, North Sierra Nevada

All the Feather Rivers in California

Northern California’s impressive Feather River Watershed is massive and drains the lower half of snowy Mount Lassen @ 10,457′ elevation. The Plumas National Forest and Lassen Forest region is where the Sierra Nevada granite meets the volcanic rock of the Cascade mountain range.

RECORD RAINS:umbrella

In most recent times, 2017 was the wettest year on record for California. The Feather River Watershed recorded more water than any other year, based on 112 years of hydrology records.

Lake Oroville
Lake Oroville, California
Fall colors in Berry Creek, CA
Fall colors in Berry Creek, CA
half-full-lake
Lake Oroville Half Full in 2015

Spanning three counties, four big river forks from the Northern Sierra Nevada mountains, to the foothills @ Lake Oroville, CA
Butte County
Plumas County
Lassen County

West Branch (Paradise, CA)
North Feather (Hwy 70 Beldon)
Middle Feather (Berry Creek, CA)
South Feather (LaPorte, CA)

Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains meet the Cascade Range @ Lassen

The North Feather runs along Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon with railways, tunnels and trestles traversing the giant gorge. This granite lined canyon is known as the “stairway to power” – water flows stepping down the mountain from numerous reservoirs. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) operate a series of 9 power plants all interconnected – producing electric power (and in rare occasions, wildfires)canoe

The East Branch of the North Feather River comes out of the American Valley near Quincy, CA

The West Branch of the North Feather River flows south down from “the ridge” – a forested, volcanic ridge line descending from Mount Lassen. West branch flows directly into Lake Oroville at Lime Saddle (Marina). This residential area is currently off limits to tourists, as it recovers from the most destructive and deadly wildfire in California history. The 2018 #CampFire destroyed most of the town and forests of Paradise, Lake Concow, and Yankee Hill. The incident made national news in November, as the worst wildfire season dragged well into autumn.

West Branch
West Branch near Magalia, N of Paradise, CA

The South Fork of the Feather River and its reservoirs, are managed by the South Feather Power Project, consisting of 5 lakes, 4 power plants, and 3 diversion dams. The closest paved road to this region would be La Porte Road, off of Highway 70 between Gridley & Marysville, CA

curtainfalls
Curtain Falls on Dome Trail Hike

DOME TRAIL 3

hiker

The Middle Feather, or Middle Fork of the Feather, is a beautiful wild and scenic river for 78 miles, with granite walls, domes and few trails or roads. Only 2 campgrounds – Milsap Bar and Little North Fork, are well worth the journey.

curtainfalls
Curtain Falls on the Dome Trail Hike

Bald Rock Hiking Trail, Berry Creek, CA

baldrockforest
Atop Bald Rock

EAST PLUMAS CO. Above the lumber & rail town of Quincy, Lake Davis and Frenchman Reservoir are both managed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Excellent mountain biking, stargazing and camping at both locations. NFS Campgrounds w/ fee.

Foreman Creek @ Lake Orville, maxed out. Feb 2017

North Sierra Waters:
via OROVILLE Reservoir
Lake Oroville

All this water listed above is the massive Feather River Watershed. Like a thousand fine hairs that make up a bird feather, there are over 4,500 miles of mountain streams and rivers feeding the bigger Reservoir system below. Dam run by DWR (Department of Water and Power) at the State Recreation Area known as Lake Oroville SRAmarina

  • boating
  • camping
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • houseboats
  • kayaking
  • watercraft

Feather River has always been prone to flooding and wild river swings. All that Mount Lassen snowmelt needs to be managed in harmony with one another, so destructive floods do not ruin the agriculture and cities of the valley. Lake Oroville is the place; they try to control these river flows that are headed down to the Sacramento Valley. Oroville Dam was built in 1967. In 2017, a record rainfall winter in California, the Oroville dam showed major signs of stress with massive amounts of incoming water. Several recently published books tell the story in greater detail.

Fisherman in the Thermalito Afterbay outlet, Oroville, California

Thermalito, California

Below Lake Oroville, 2 giant warming ponds Thermalito Forebay & Thermalito Afterbay – built to control irrigation water and also heat the cold river water for the fish downstreamfish

CA SR 162 – West Highway 162: the farming and residential areas of Thermalito & Biggs are held together by rock levees, all running right next to Highway 99. Diversion drainage leads out of Lake Orovillle above  to the large inland bays – with river parks and salmon fish hatchery in historic, downtown Oroville. Wildlife viewing , kayaking, boating, fishing. Minimal camping at this area. Big rigs may be seen parked along this stretch of highway, due to its proximity to Hwy 99

RV park in Gridley, CA
Loafer Creek Campground on Hwy 162 @ Lake Oroville SRA

The Feather River flows south and merges with the Yuba River at Marysville & Yuba City, before joining the massive Sacramento River coming from the far north.

Eventually entering the California Delta south of Sacramento, CA

northforkfeather
North Feather, known as the “Stairway to Power” due to hydro-electric dams along this stretch.

camp  camptruck

Camping around the Feather River

NORTH FORK:

MIDDLE FORK:

SOUTH FORK:

challenge

challengePO
Small towns are primarily residential on the South Fork – Challenge, CA

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Lassen National Park

 

USFS
Lassen National Forest
Plumas National Forest

maps of the Feather River regiondirtbikes

Middle Fork Feather Topo Map
Plumas National Forest Map
Lassen National Forest Map
Bucks Lake Wilderness Map
Ishi Wilderness Map
Lassen Forest Topo Atlas
Lassen Park Map NatGeo
PCT Map #5 North Sierra

Lassen Books

 

funkybridge
Best one lane bridge yet!
QueenCampsites
Queen Lily Campsites
mellownorth
Mellow North Fork, via Caribou Road

Grand-eous ideas, from white men who conquered this land. The scouts on horseback mapped the canyons w/ primitive tools; the with dynamite and danger, they built a railroad through in 1850.

Hydro-electric power systems  on the Feather, were constructed between 1908-1961. Native lands and tribal communities have been treated as sacrifice zones for national priorities of irrigation, flood control, and hydroelectric development.

Recent upgrades to Oroville Dam have been completed, although a lot of work still goes on around the Feather region due to wildfire debris, tree trimming, fire clearance, upgrades to power lines, and structural improvements.

Hiking trails, dirt roads  and highways may be re-routed, inaccessible or closed due to construction, landslides, rock slides or utility work. Call local rangers for up to date info.

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Towns near the Feather River –

(in alphabetical order)

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mountains

Wikipedia Links – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feather_River

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Oroville

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_North_Fork_Feather_River_Project